Human Rights of Asylum Seekers in the UK inquiry launched
7 November 2022
The Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry examines the Government’s policies and procedures relating to asylum seekers and the impact these have on their human rights.
This will include the UK’s approach the availability of “safe and legal” routes for asylum seekers, the treatment of those arriving outside of these routes, and attempts to relocate asylum seekers outside the UK. It will also examine the treatment of asylum seekers once in the UK, including treatment in short-term holding facilities, conditions in detention, accommodation, restrictions on movement, and the right to work.
The inquiry also assesses whether the UK’s current legal framework is adequate to meet its human rights obligations to those who are victims of modern slavery or human trafficking.
Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Joanna Cherry KC MP said:
“The UK has a long-standing obligation to provide a place of sanctuary to those fleeing war and persecution. We have launched this inquiry to examine whether the current approach to asylum meets the UK’s human rights obligations. Are the current routes for asylum seekers to come to the UK adequate, and is it right for those excluded from “safe and legal routes” to be punished for coming to the UK even if they have fled conflict or persecution? Can the UK outsource its asylum obligations to third countries and still ensure the human rights of those seeking asylum are protected?
“We want to look beyond fearful headlines about the cost of hotel accommodation or the numbers of asylum seekers arriving, to consider the experience of those going through the asylum system and the way they are treated. Fundamentally, is the way asylum seekers are treated appropriate and lawful, or is the UK Government falling short of the human rights standards designed to protect them, and all of us? Given the terrible conditions we have witnessed at Manston and the new Home Secretary’s seeming delight at the prospect of further flights to Rwanda, this inquiry could not be more timely.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 14 that “everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. The Refugee Convention built on this with the establishment of a regime of international refugee protection, which was ratified by the UK in 1954. The Convention defines a refugee as a person outside their country of nationality or habitual residence, due to well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, and unable or unwilling to return to that country for fear of persecution.
In addition, the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Amongst other things, it prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR), as well as slavery and forced labour (Article 4 ECHR). It also provides for a right to liberty and security (Article 5 ECHR) and a right to private and family life (Art 8 ECHR).
Asylum seekers often come from countries affected by violence, conflict, and human rights abuses, and a portion of those who leave come to the UK. In 2022, the number of new asylum applications rose to 63,089, from 48,540 in the previous year. As of June 2022, there were 122,213 asylum claims pending an initial decision, out of which 89,231 cases had been pending an initial decision for more than 6 months. Most asylum claims in the UK are successful – in 2021, the estimated overall grant rate where a final outcome has been reached was 77%.
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 made significant amendments to the legislative framework for the asylum system. Changes include the introduction of new powers to remove asylum seekers, the creation of a two-tier system for asylum claims, and the inadmissibility of claims by persons with a connection to safe third States. The Government has also sought through the UK Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership to send certain asylum seekers to Rwanda to make claims for asylum in Rwanda.
Terms of reference
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is looking into the rights of asylum seekers in the UK, with a view to identifying human rights concerns. To inform its work, the Committee invites submissions of no more than 1,500 words from interested groups and individuals. The deadline for submissions is 15 December 2022. We would welcome evidence covering the following questions:
Submit evidence here.
“Safe and legal routes”
1. Is it compatible with the UK’s human rights obligations to deny asylum to those who do not use what the Government calls “safe and legal routes”?
2. What “safe and legal routes” currently exist for asylum seekers in the UK? Should new routes be introduced?
Relocation of asylum seekers
3. Is the policy of relocating asylum seekers to third countries consistent with the UK’s human rights obligations?
4. Are the rules on detention and processing, and the treatment of detained asylum seekers, consistent with the UK’s human rights obligations?
5. Is the electronic tagging of asylum seekers a necessary and proportionate interference with their human rights?
Legal aid, accommodation, and subsistence
6. Is the support available to asylum seekers under the legal aid, accommodation, and subsistence rules compliant with the UK’s human rights obligations?
Right to work
7. How do the rules on right to work impact on the human rights of asylum seekers?
8. Is the UK’s legal framework for tackling modern slavery and human trafficking effective, and is it compatible with our human rights obligations? Are there changes that should be made?
9. Is there any evidence that modern slavery laws are being abused by people “gaming” the system?
Nationality and Borders Act 2022
10. To what extent has the enactment of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 had an impact on the human rights of asylum seekers?
We understand that the issues raised in this work may be sensitive or upsetting and the following organisations may be able to offer support or further information:
Asylum Aid - free legal aid advice and representation to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.
Call 020 7354 9631
British Red Cross - support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK including emergency assistance to those who are destitute, and family reunion and resettlement services.
Call 0808 196 3651
London Destitution Service – Refugee Council - support for asylum seekers or rejected asylum seekers who are destitute, and support to vulnerable and homeless asylum seekers who have lost contact with their asylum application and have no legal representation.
Migrant Help – free 24/7 helpline providing independent advice and support to asylum
seekers in the UK in your own language.
Call 0808 8010 503
Webchat; Online Enquiry Form
Samaritans - for everyone, 24 hours a day, every day.
Call 116 123